Learn how to do tummy time with your newborn – a guide for tummy time with your baby from birth to two months old
Tummy time is time your newborn spends on his stomach during the day while he is awake and supervised. This is also referred to as being in prone position.
Tummy time should be done from birth until baby is starting to crawl.
The newborn period usually refers to a baby from birth to around two months old. Keep in mind that tummy time during this time will look a lot different than when your baby is older.
Here are some tips to make the most out of tummy time with your newborn.
Looking for tummy time tips for older babies? Learn all about tummy time milestones for babies 3 to 6 months old.
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Why Is Tummy Time Important for Newborns?
Studies have shown that tummy time is positively associated with the development of gross motor skills. Gross motor skills are activities that involve movements of the large muscles. This includes sitting, crawling, and walking.
Although all babies develop on different timelines, gross motor skills usually develop in a predictable way. Babies typically acquire gross motor skills from head to toe and from the center of the body to the outside of the body.
For example, first, babies will need to strengthen their neck and upper back muscles and develop the ability to lift their heads. Then they can begin working on strengthening the muscles in their arms to bear weight on the arms and push up off the floor.
Tummy time is so important because it helps babies develop the strength they need in their neck, shoulder, back, and core muscles.
What Are The Other Benefits of Tummy Time?
We know tummy time is important for the acquisition of motor skills but it can also help in other areas of your baby’s development.
Helps with Bonding
Tummy time offers a lot of opportunities for you to interact with your baby. This can be done by placing your face near his as he lies on the floor or by gently calling his name or shaking a rattle to get his attention.
This face to face time and back and forth interactions can help you bond with your baby in a fun, playful way.
Helps Prevent Flathead
Babies can develop a flattening of their skulls, often known as flathead or flathead syndrome. This is a change in the shape of a baby’s head from spending more time in one position (such as on his back).
The risk is greatest during the first 3 to 4 months of life until the baby develops head control.
Spending time on his tummy keeps pressure off your baby’s head and can help prevent flattening of the head.
Related: 5 Tips to Prevent Flathead in Babies
Allows Baby to Gain Different Sensory Experiences
Tummy time helps your baby have different sensory experiences. These include:
Helps with Vision Development
During tummy time, your baby will learn to move his head to look at and track objects. As he gets older, reaching for toys while lying on his tummy will help with hand eye coordination.
Related: What Can My Newborn See?
How Much Tummy Time Should My Newborn Have?
The recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics is for your baby to work his way up to one hour of tummy time every day. The hour of tummy time can be broken up into smaller sessions several times a day.
In the beginning, start by putting your newborn on his belly for 30 seconds to a minute and see how he tolerates this position. Increase the length of time your baby spends on his belly each day.
Aim for about an hour a day of tummy time by the time your baby is three months old.
What Should Tummy Time Look Like With a Newborn?
During the newborn period, it may seem like not much is happening during tummy time.
That’s okay! You will start to see small changes in your newborn’s motor development as he gets a little older and stronger.
Most babies can start doing tummy time soon after birth but check with your baby’s pediatrician first. You will want to be extra cautious until your baby’s belly button is fully healed.
Tummy Time Positions
When you baby is a newborn, you may want to start tummy time using alternate positions instead of the traditional lying with stomach-on-the-floor. Some positions that you naturally hold your baby in are great for helping to improve head and neck control.
Tummy to tummy (or tummy to chest)
You can lie down flat or recline with pillows under your back. Place your newborn on your stomach or chest with his head towards you so you are face-to-face. Keep a firm hand on your baby for safety.
Place baby on his belly over your lap. Many infants can tolerate this position better than lying on the floor in the beginning.
For extra support, sit in a chair with stool under one foot so that one leg is higher than the other. Place your baby across your legs with their head over the higher leg. This can take some pressure of the chest and belly for newborns who do not like being on their stomach.
Tummy Time Milestones
The first thing your baby needs to learn to do during tummy time is clear his airway by turning his head to expose his mouth and nose for breathing.
By two weeks, your baby should be able to turn his head slightly to one side while lying on his stomach so that his nose and mouth are off the floor. He also might attempt to lift and turn his head already.
At one month, your baby should be turning his head to both sides on the floor. He should start attempting to lift and hold his head up for at least a few seconds. To help facilitate lifting the head, you can move his elbows closer to his body to give him more support.
By two months, you may see your baby starting to tilt his head to one side while lying on his stomach. Make sure your baby is turning his head to both sides while doing tummy time. This will ensure that the neck muscles are developing equally.
If you have any concerns about your baby’s motor development, talk to your pediatrician. It may also be helpful to contact your local early intervention program.
After two months, the majority of tummy time should be done on the floor although you can still use alternate positions. The goal is to have your baby doing tummy time “independently” so they can explore and play freely (with supervision)!
This a great video from pathways.org that shows examples of tummy time activities for two month olds.
After Two Months
By three months, your baby will be gaining more head control and starting to bear weight on his arms. Eventually, he will be able to lift and turn his head more freely, start to lift his chest off the ground and begin to reach for toys with his arms. At this point, your baby will be interacting much more with his environment and tummy time will become more playful.
Want to learn more? Find out what milestones to look for during tummy time for 3 to 6 month olds.
What If My Baby Hates Tummy Time?
Some babies seem resistant to lying on the bellies and may cry when they are put down in that position.
If your baby is frustrated or upset being on his stomach, don’t force tummy time. Pick him up and try again later in the day.
Don’t give up either! Keep trying to help your baby get used to the position.
At first, when they’re unable to lift their heads up and look around, babies can’t see much during tummy time except the floor. It may be helpful to reassure your baby that you’re there. You can keep your face close to his, talk to him, and soothe him.
In the first few weeks, it may be easier to use alternate positions for tummy time than the standard on-the-stomach on-the-floor position as mentioned above. You can try tummy-to-tummy or tummy-to-chest position or lying baby down over your lap.
When your baby has developed a little more head control and can move his head to the side while lying on the floor, he may be more tolerant of being in that position.
Tips for Successful Tummy Time
Make tummy time part of your daily routine
During the first several weeks of a newborn’s life, it seems like all they do is eat, sleep and poop. It may be difficult to figure out when you can find time for tummy time.
The good news is, you don’t have to change anything about your baby’s schedule. Make tummy time part of the routine you already have.
After Changing Baby’s Diaper
As an early intervention therapist, this was one of my favorite tips for families struggling to fit in more tummy time for their babies.
Think about how often you change your newborn’s diaper!
After each diaper change, simply roll your baby over to his belly for a minute or two. This is such a great way to fit in tummy time throughout the day.
Some babies who are prone to spitting up may not tolerate being on their bellies right after eating.
However, you can still do tummy time after a feed by lying your baby over your lap. This is a common position for burping a newborn. After burping, just let your baby stay in that position for a few minutes longer to get in some extra tummy time.
Make lying on his belly fun for your newborn
Get on the floor with your baby so you are face to face.
Sing a song to him or read a story.
Lie your baby on a blanket or towel with different textures so he can experience how different things feel.
Introduce toys to your baby. Great toys for the newborn age are rattles and soft toys with high contrasting colors or patterns.
Do tummy time in different locations
Change the spots where you do tummy time to give your baby a variety of different sensory and visual experiences.
Put your baby on his stomach on a playmat in the living room or on a blanket on the rug in his bedroom.
I also frequently use our Pack n Play for tummy time. This is helpful when my toddler is being a little too rambunctious and I don’t want to put the baby on the floor.
Use a rolled-up blanket under your baby’s chest
For babies who are resistant to tummy time, try this trick. Place a rolled-up receiving blanket or towel under his chest with his arms over the roll. Forearms should be resting on the ground.
This can help provide some extra support and may allow your baby to feel more comfortable. It can also give a little extra assistance in encouraging him to try to lift up his head.
Talk to your baby during tummy time
It’s never too early to start encouraging communication skills for babies. Talking to you baby is the best way to help him learn to talk.
- Talk about what you are doing – “You are lying on your belly. You’re getting so strong!”
- Talk about their toys – “This is a rattle. Shake, shake, shake.”
- Talk about what’s going on in the environment – “It’s sunny out today. Can you hear the birds chirping outside?”
- Talk about the sensations they might be feeling – “Can you feel this blanket? It’s very soft.”
This is a great time to bond with baby and encourage language development while you are working on their motor skills.
Final thoughts on how to do tummy with with your newborn
- Research shows that tummy time helps babies achieve motor milestones
- Tummy time can also help with parent-infant bonding, vision development, and sensory milestones
- Start with a few minutes of tummy time a few times a day and gradually increase to an hour a day divided into small sessions.
- Try tummy to tummy or over the lap during the first few weeks to get your newborn used to being on their stomachs
- Make tummy time part of your daily routine by rolling baby over for a few minutes of tummy time after changing his diaper
- Place a thin rolled blanket under baby’s chest for extra support during tummy time.
- When ready to put baby on the floor, use different textured blankets, spend time in different rooms, sing songs, read stories, talk about what’s going on, and introduce toys with high contrast colors that make noise.
I hope these tips can help you make the most out of tummy time with your newborn.
If you found any of this advice helpful, let me know in the comments below and spread the love by sharing this post!
Related posts about your baby’s development:
- Tummy Time for 3 to 6-Month-Olds
- The Best Developmental Toys for Babies (A Month by Month Guide)
- Tips to Prevent Flat Head
- Newborn Vision Development
- What is Early Intervention?